Monday, July 28, 2008

Medicine at McMurdo

McMurdo General waiting room.

I've never fancied the idea of needing a hospital. I prefer to avoid them if I can, especially down here in Antarctica. In such a harsh environment, I just couldn't imagine them having everything they needed. However, after numerous visits throughout the year for physical therapy or to fix computers, I've slowly discovered that they do have what they need and more. I'd speculate the only place they come up short is with specialty cases and they probably have a lot them covered too.

Supply closet of stuff.

The good stuff is in the locked pharmacy.

The two bed emergency room and operating room if need be.

Professionally, this next room has been interesting. They use a lot of electronic equipment in the lab. When it isn't working, they have me come take a look at it. I feel confident with computers, but a lot less so with electronic medical equipment. So far, I think we have straightened everything out. However, I'm not so sure I'd want to rely on it either . . . .


My favorite fix in the lab was on the E-Chem(?) machine. I only had to change the battery, but I had no idea where it was, how to do it, and was scared of breaking the machine by exploring. I found the instruction manual, which, of course, had no useful information in it. I called their tech support hot line and told them I needed to change the battery. They informed me that only their technicians were qualified or allowed to do it. I informed them that I was in the middle of an Antarctic winter and they couldn't visit if they wanted to. He acquiesced and told me how to make the simple swap. That line has gotten me what I needed a few times while I've been down here. I think the only ones who stood firm were Canon on the firmware for their copiers.


After taking x-rays the old fashioned way, we do all of our X-ray processing on a computer using a special scanner and software. It is a great system that also allows us to easily send x-rays off continent to have a specialist look at them. We can also process films the old fashioned way if the computer system were to fail. Luckily, that hasn't happened. Because the system relies on a computer, I've been able to get a lot closer look at the process than normal. It is just another way that my job is great down here. I get to see so many different things, that even if they frustrate me, I don't get bored.

The ward with the video teleconference machine in the back.


Ophthalmology and private exam room.

My most active role in medical is making sure that their computers, printers, and copiers work, which can often be a chore because I'm not trained as a printer or copier technician. However, my most important role at medical is probably making sure the video teleconferencing (VTC) machine is working. They can use the VTC to let doctors in Denver or at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) see a patient for themselves. This might let them get a better look at a rash. We can also hook up different equipment, scopes and ultrasound, to the machine so specialists can guide us through a diagnosis or get a closer look at something.

The doc performs an ultrasound on a patient's leg with UTMB staff using the VTC.

Hyperbaric chamber

I was a little confused when I saw that we had a hyperbaric chamber. I guess the Navy brought it down. We still have divers in the Sound over the summer so it is possible that we'd need it.

The final room in medical is the physical therapy clinic. I probably spend more time there as a patient that anywhere else. Our current PT, Lisa, is fantastic. I think she is the best PT I've ever worked with. It isn't just the methodology she uses, but she keeps working until she finds an angle to motivate you. She's great.

Physical Therapy

Perk of the continent - free ambulance rides.


  1. This was interesting to me. I've always been interested in medical things. It drives Dennis nuts. Our son, Clint, always was interested in the medical equipment, too. He always wanted to take things apart while we were waiting for the doctor.

  2. Hrm, why did I see a picture of you in a clavicle brace with wings?

  3. Uh .. why didn't

  4. good to know you're well taken care of down there. :-)

  5. I thought this was your favorite place in the world. With your numerous reckless injuries you should feel right at home.